The World of Achaemenid Persia

Conference - Abstracts Full

29 September - 1 October 2005
Clore Education Centre, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG

Over 50 speakers will discuss the Achaemenid dynasty. The focus of discussions will be history/historiography, new sources, art & architecture, gender, political continuity/change, iconography, religion, origins & legacy.


Kamyar Abdi, Dartmouth College

According to Diodorus (11.69) Xerxes was assassinated in early August 465 BC by Artabanus, the captain of the royal bodyguard, who plotted to take over the throne. Artabanus was led at night by Mithradates (the king's chamberlain) into the king's chamber, killed Xerxes and then set out after the king's (three) sons: Darius, Hystaspes, and Artaxerxes. According to Ctesias (29-30) and Diodorus (11.69.1-5), Artaxerxes, deceived by Artabanus into believing that Xerxes was assassinated by the crown prince Darius, killed his brother. Artabanus then tried to kill Artaxerxes, but he was killed by Artaxerxes instead. Artaxerxes then defeated his other brother Hystaspes, the satrap of Bactria, and ascended the throne in 464 BC.

Two pieces of archaeological evidence date to about the same time as the above-mentioned events were unfolding in the Achaemenid court: the Treasury relief and the Daiva inscription. According to Ann and Giuseppe Tilia, the two copies of the Treasury relief were originally set up on the central staircase of the Apadana, but they were later relocated to the Treasury. This observation has led a number of scholars to argue that the reliefs show Xerxes and the crown prince Darius, and that they were removed when Artaxerxes came to the throne.

So far, a total of five copies of the Daiva inscription have been recovered: two in Old Persian, one in Babylonian, and one in Elamite from Persepolis and one in Old Persian from Pasargadae. Unlike most other royal Achaemenid inscriptions that are found in situ (i.e. in the place they were displayed or ritually deposited), every copy of the Daiva inscription discovered thus far comes from a non-primary context.

The unusual context of these finds will be used in this paper to assess the circumstances surrounding the passing of the throne from Xerxes to Artaxerxes.


Bahram Adjerloo, Nazar Institute, Tehran

The development of the Achaemenid Empire in the north-west portion of the Iranian plateau is still problematic. How was the Median kingdom affected by the rise of the Achaemenid Empire? What are the cultural characteristics of the Achaemenid period in Iranian Azerbaijan? Did the same Iron Age III cultural characteristics continue in the Achaemenid period?

Recent surveys in the Qaradaq region, Marand plain and eastern districts of Urmia Lake have reconstructed an Urartian landscape of the 8th-7th centuries BC. However, a recent survey in the Mughan plain has not yet revealed any ancient material related to the 6th-4th centuries BC. The stratigraphic soundage at Tepe Shiramin, south of Tabriz, did not reveal any cultural assemblage of the Median kingdom or that of the Persians. Recent excavations at Ziviyeh and Qalaychi nevertheless did reveal that if we accept the cultural assemblage of Ziviyeh and Qalaychi as belonging to the Manaean culture, we will have to review the Hasanlu IVB as a Manaean level. Is it, therefore, possible to relate Hasanlu IVB to the Medes? Historically, the Median kingdom was very large. If Hasanlu IVB is originally Median, why is there no cultural assemblage similar to Hasanlu IVB on the east side of Urmia lake?

The archaeological data from Tepe Shiramin and the Blue Mosque of Tabriz, both on the east side of Urmia lake, are not comparable to Tepe Hasanlu IVB - III on the opposite side. Archaeological surveys in Ardebil - Mughan plain focusing on the Median - Achaemenid period did not provide any further information.

Results of recent archaeological investigations in Urmia lake basin, demonstrate three periods. These are as follows:
- Prehistoric period up to ca. 850 BC
- Urartian period up to ca. 650 BC
- Post-Urartian period after ca. 650 BC.

The settlement pattern in the Urartian period is very different than that of the post-Urartian period. Urartian settlements are more numerous than in the post-Urartian period and are sited in the plain or next to the hills. They are also larger than the post-Urartian settlements which are placed on the hills and in the highlands. Survey evidence suggests a shift in the subsistence patterns from agriculture to stock living, although further research is required.

Archaeological investigations have not identified the material culture of the Medes and Persians in the Urmia lake basin, Mughan plain and Qaradaq region during the post-Urartian period. Moreover, there are no ancient inscription or other written sources.

The Hasanlu II and post-Urartian Bastam cultural assemblage have not been found in the east side of Urmia Lake nor in Ardebil-Mughan. Thus, the archaeological data does not explain how the Median Kingdom was replaced by the Achaemenid Empire. In addition we cannot yet define the cultural characteristics of the Achaemenid period in Iranian Azerbaijan.

This research suggests that it is necessary to change our ideas and interpretation on the Achaemenids in the north-west of the Iranian plateau.


Kourosh Afhami, Sheda Vasseghi & Wolfgang Gambke, Persepolis3D

The first systematic and scholarly excavation of Persepolis was conducted by Ernst Herzfeld and Friedrich Krefter which led to the onsite reconstruction of the 'Harem'. About thirty years later, the Harem reconstruction became the basis for Krefter's drawings published in Persepolis-Rekonstruktionen between 1963 and 1971.

During the Harem reconstruction, Krefter solved the puzzling roof constructions and was able to understand the architectural and constructional reasoning for using the form of the capital of the columns which are in the shape of a two-headed bull, lion, and lamasu. It is fair to say that without this discovery and his technical and architectural knowledge, it would not have been possible to accurately reconstruct the buildings at Persepolis.

Our goal with this virtual reconstruction project is to continue and expand on Krefter's work using modern tools and technology not only to show the different perspectives drawn by Krefter, but also to show Persepolis from every angle and point of view both in pictures and animation with its original materials, lighting, and mood. Virtual reconstruction also allows us to integrate and update our images with future archaeological findings.

With our knowledge and background in architecture, construction, and aesthetics and with many years researching and studying Krefter's work, the Persepolis3D project is a continuation of his work and heritage. In addition, our ongoing onsite research provides the latest information for our future updates. We are certain that our work which is based on architectural knowledge and archaeological findings will be beneficial to researchers on Achaemenid Persia. In addition, the German television Hessischer Rundfunk is currently producing a film about our work. Some clips from Persepolis - A Reconstruction will be shown during the presentation.


Bjoern Anderson, University of Michigan

What was the nature of Achaemenid rule in north Arabia? Owing to the difficulties associated with the interpretation of texts and the paucity of archaeological evidence, this question is difficult to answer. Yet the region's geographic position and economic importance, when combined with the intensively peripatetic nature of the Achaemenid court, strongly suggests active imperial involvement in the region. Soldiers, officials, and traders frequently moved back and forth between the important satrapy in Egypt and the capital at Persepolis, and the importance of this traffic would have itself necessitated a security presence in north Arabia.

Examination of royal Achaemenid material culture shows that the Arabs figured prominently in the foreign policy of the kings. The Persepolis Fortification tablets record food disbursed to Arab travellers in the Persian heartland, testifying to significant give and take between Arab peoples and the courtly/administrative activities of the vast Achaemenid realm. There must have been a steady stream of Arab visitors on various errands: payment of tribute, commercial activities, and audiences with the kings. This provided further immersion in Achaemenid expressions of royal ideology, especially as Persepolis was everywhere laden with programmatic messages of kingship.

In Achaemenid art, Arabs are important figures. They are prominent in the royal tomb reliefs at Naqsh-i Rustam, and can also be identified on the register of tribute bearers on the eastern staircase of the Apadana at Persepolis. High-level Arab visitors, such as those who brought gifts to the king, would have been entertained in grand style during their stay, witnessing entertainment and rituals selected by the court. These important Arabian figures were likely tribal leaders, tied by kinship and descent to the prominent families who operated in Arabia.

In this paper, I will integrate this evidence from the Persian heartland with Arabia's epigraphic and archaeological record. In doing so, I hope to elucidate the character of Achaemenid Arabia, as well as the imprint that centuries of Persian rule left in the cultural identity of the inhabitants.


Barbara Regine Armbruster, University of Toulouse Le Mirail

This paper deals with the study of ancient Persian gold jewellery and vessel manufacture, in particular the presentation of details of the lost-wax casting method, the use of the lathe in vessel production, plastic shaping and joining techniques. The aim is to illustrate high standard and the specialisation in Achaemenid precious metal working and to discuss the types of materials and tools used in the processes. The technological information was obtained by optical examination of jewellery and vessels of the Oxus Treasure.

The Oxus Treasure, the most important evidence of Achaemenid gold work from ancient Iran, consists of about 180 items made of gold and some of silver and generally dated in the 5th - 4th centuries BC. In two case studies the gold bracelets with terminals in form of winged griffins and two gold vessels, a plain bowl and a jug, will be presented. The bracelets are characterized by a hollow body made by lost wax casting, chasing applied for the realisation of settings and thin sheet work used for small cells holding coloured stones. The vessels reflect details of lost wax casting processes using rotary tools in the preparation of the wax model. The examination reveals details on the technical know-how of the artisans of ancient Iran and the important technological level achieved in arts and crafts. A general view on the manufacture of hollow ornaments and vessels turned on a lathe will be proposed. The hoard and its relation to contemporary gold work in general will be discussed.


Heather D Baker, Institut fuer Orientalistik, Universitaet Wien

When the archaeological evidence for houses is presented in the traditional manner - in the form of ground plans - it is easy to forget that these houses underwent cycles of development over time which reflect the changing requirements of their occupants. With some notable exceptions, e.g. E Stone's analysis of residential neighbourhoods in Old Babylonian Nippur in her Nippur Neighborhoods (1987) modifications to their layout are often considered solely from the chronological point of view, in order to distinguish phases of occupation and use. The social implications of such changes are rarely explored. However, such remodelling clearly also has important consequences for our understanding of the household, its composition and its activities. This paper therefore examines the archaeological evidence for residential quarters in the Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid periods in the light of the contemporary textual data on the spatial organisation of houses. The cuneiform documentation provides information not only on the terminology for different parts of the house, but also about the inheritance and division of urban properties - information which is crucial to understanding the life-cycle both of the household and of the house itself. Particular attention will therefore be paid to the question of physical alterations in house layout over time, as attested in excavation, and an attempt will be made to relate these alterations to documentary evidence for the household cycle and patterns of residence. Finally, the paper will consider the chronological development of residential quarters in the Babylonian cities against the background of political conditions and demographic and economic trends in the 1st millennium BC.


Goetz Balonier, Hessischer Rundfunk

Using the methods of digitalization, the film documentary Persepolis, a Reconstruction rebuilds Persepolis at the time of the Achaemenid Empire. The film is about Persepolis and its reconstruction since the 1930's, when the first reconstruction of the 'Harem' (the 'Persepolis Museum' today) was completed by Friedrich Krefter and Ernst Herzfeld based on archaeological findings, until now, when architects Kourosh Afhami and Wolfgang Gambke use computer technology for its virtual reconstruction based primarily on Krefter's work Persepolis-Rekonstruktionen and the documentation obtained from the excavations led by E F Schmidt along with their own recent onsite research results. In addition, this virtual reconstruction examines color schemes for the first time which may provide a forum for discussions. The film briefly explores the methodology of this digital reconstruction and its sources using novel pictures and HDTV technology to rebuild a possible version of the original Persepolis. In addition, it also presents the role of Persepolis in modern day Iran especially with respect to the celebration of Norouz.


Oric Basirov, formerly SOAS

Zoroastrianism introduced to western Iran a mandatory funerary ritual which required initial exposure of the body, and secondary disposal of the bones. However long after the advent of the eastern faith, many western Iranians continued with their traditional practice of primary burial. Archaeological evidence confirming this, also highlight the multiplicity and eclecticism of the Persian funerary practices. This is attested by the discovery of diverse forms of primary burial, throughout the Zoroastrian period, including fully articulated skeletal remains, buried in graves, coffins, and many large cemeteries. Achaemenian mausolea, moreover, are identified as tombs rather than ossuaries, with historical records indicating that Parthians and Sasanians also practised burial.

This toleration of primary burial in a Zoroastrian society, although hardly noticed by the classical writers, seems to have baffled many modern scholars. Some have questioned the faith of the Achaemenids, others see burial as a special concession to the monarchs. Several attempts have also been made to reconcile burial with religious laws. These range from reclassifying some tombs as ossuaries, to maintaining that, waxed and sealed corpses would not have defiled sacred elements.

Achaemenid funerary practices do not present a solid basis to determine their religion. Many factors, however, point to their Zoroastrianism, including the god they shared with that faith. It was probably Zoroaster who deified the abstract concept, Mazdah, because its Indian equivalent is still only a concept and not a god. Nor is there any evidence for Mazdah ever being worshipped outside Zoroastrianism, as for example, Mithra was. One is, therefore, more inclined to regard Achaemenids as Mazdah-worshipping Zoroastrians.


Pierre Briant, Collège de France

Since the 17th century, the books on Alexander's conquest of the Near East used to devote an introductory chapter to a comparison between the Macedonian Kingdom and the Persian Empire at the beginning of the reigns of Alexander and Darius III respectively. This analysis was supposed to give the interpretative key to the victorious enterprise of the Macedonian king. Unsurprisingly this historiographical approach was founded upon the traditional representations of the past, present and future relationship between East and West: Persia and the East were analysed in the shadow of the first conqueror in History to have ever been able to subdue Asia to the triumphant Europe. At the same time, the Persian Empire was also implicitly or explicitly analysed against the concept of 'Orientalism' as expounded later by Edward Saïd, but already used particularly by 19th century historians. Consequently, the image of 'the colossus with clay feet' has been transmitted for generations of historians, specialists both of Greece and the Near East.


Maria Brosius, University of Newcastle

Although some evidence for the public appearance of royal women in the Achaemenid period has already been discussed (see M Brosius, Women in Achaemenid Persia (559-331 BC), Oxford (1996, repr.1998, 2002)), this presentation focuses on a particular aspect of the women's appearance and places it within the context of the Achaemenid court and court ceremony. Currently three seals are known, datable to the Achaemenid period and depicting an all-female scene which in format and style is identical to the royal audience scene known principally from the Apadana reliefs as well as from other objects, including a bulla from Daskyleion and from the inside of a Persian shield on the so-called Alexander-sarcophagus from Sidon. The female audience scene is depicted in a Neo-Elamite style on a seal from Persepolis (PFS 77*), but perhaps best known from a seal, now in the Musée du Louvre. A third seal, as yet unpublished, and apparently crafted in an Achaemenising style, depicts the same scene.

Contrary to previous interpretations of the female audience scene as a depiction of a goddess enthroned, it will be argued that there is a case to be made to suggest that these are 'profane' scenes of audiences held by royal or high-ranking women, and that these are to be placed within the context of the royal court and women's participation in court-life and court ceremonies. The argument not only will have a bearing on our views on female representations in Achaemenid art but will also highlight the extent of women's activities at court.


Annie Caubet, Musée du Louvre

The Musée du Louvre regularly organises from its own collections, exhibitions about materials and techniques created throughout different civilisations. Following the Ivories exhibition in 2004, the 2005 exhibition is about glazed vitreous materials. Because of the vastness of the subject, the latter exhibition focuses on the origins of these techniques which developed in the Near East and Egypt. The juxtaposition of the collections sheds light on and emphasizes two historical interactions between these two great civilisations, one during the Egyptian New Empire Kingdom and the other during the Achaemenid Persian Empire. It is indeed during the Persian era that some of the most beautiful glazed artefacts from antiquities were produced, which were remarkable for their technical innovations, for their eclectic styles, for their variety in types of objects, and for their wide dissemination. In this context, the discoveries in Susa were unique and the decoration of Darius' palace is spectacular in its use of glazed brick friezes which canvassed the walls and displayed archers, servants or mythological beasts. The objects are influenced by metal-derived forms, while the numerous Egyptian amulets from Susa allow us to better date similar objects found in the Levant and in Egypt.


Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis, The British Museum

After the collapse of the Achaemenid Empire in 330 BC, the local kings of Persis, who were under the Seleucid yoke, struck coins from the 2nd century BC to the beginning of the 3rd century AD. The iconography of these coins provides an interesting link with the ancient Persian tradition and later Sasanian iconography.

Like the early Achaemenid kings and the later Sasanians, the kings of Persis were keen to stress the divine aspect of their kingship and depicted themselves as the legitimate holders of the khvarenah or Divine Glory, and the guardians of the sacred kingly fire. The present paper will discuss religious and royal symbolism on coins of Persis and compare the iconography of these coins with Achaemenid art, Parthian coins and early Sasanian coins.


Mehdi Daryaie, National Museum of Iran

Coins are more precisely datable than any other archaeological materials and thus offer a primary source for the study of social, economic and political history. Thus, they should be an ideal cultural material for comparative analysis. However, although coins serve as a valuable source of information, their interpretation is not always straightforward. In this respect one of the most important archaeological discoveries in Iranian archaeology, the Oxus Treasure which was found between 1877 and 1880 on the north bank of the Oxus River (now known as the Amu Dar'ya) in modern Tajikistan, is the subject of focus in this paper. It is unknown who originally discovered the Oxus Treasure and it is thought that the treasure was found over several occasions.

In this paper, the main focus will be on the coins within the treasure. Were all these coins circulated? Are there any forgeries in the collection? How can we detect fakes? The Oxus Treasure is a large collection of ancient Iranian metalwork and housed in the British Museum. The treasure consists of approximately 180 gold and silver objects such as: gold bracelets and armlets, gold discs, rings, vessels, earrings and pendants, a gold sword scabbard, two model gold chariots, several silver and three gold statuettes, two stone cylinder seals, about fifty decorated small, thin gold plaques and numerous gold beads. Museum records indicate that the hoard was also originally associated with around 1,500 coins; however, only approximately 200 of these coins can presently be identified in the Museum's collection as belonging to the Oxus Treasure.

The contents of the hoard range in date from the 6th to the 2nd century BC. While the coins vary in date, the majority of the metal objects are from the Achaemenid Dynasty (550-330 BC).

A coin hoard is a combination of coins which archaeologically or numismatically convey a historic message. The total number of the coins, their fabric and their denomination are important factors in the content of the hoard and therefore its interpretation. Additionally, the function of the coin hoard will be examined. What type of coin hoard was the Oxus Treasure? According to the coin hoard distribution pattern, most of the Persian coins (darics and sigloi) were found in the western satrapies mainly in Asia Minor and it is quite odd that the Oxus hoard contained darics and sigloi. Where they circulated in the north-eastern satrapies such as Bactria? If not how did they reach this area? Was it through military campaigns or trade exchange?

A few other questions will also be discussed, including previous research on Oxus coins, the probable date of hoard burial, and the question of whether there any fakes in the coin hoard. If so, then the application of SEM and XRF analyses would be essential. Finally, after studying 200 pieces of the Oxus coin hoard, it was concluded that there no forgeries in the British Museum coin collection.


Elspeth R M Dusinberre, University of Colorado

Seals provide a unique entry into understanding ancient societies: used by individuals or offices for ratification, identification, and ornamentation, they functioned simultaneously as official insignia and indicators of personal taste. They can be telling indicators of societal values and organisation. The differences and similarities between the Achaemenid seals found at the satrapal capital of Sardis and the relative backwater that was Gordion are therefore especially interesting. This study considers the seals from Sardis and Gordion, exploring their shapes, sizes, materials, style, iconography, and findspots. It situates them in their historical, political, and geographic contexts to learn both about the Achaemenid Empire itself and the ways it differed from the pre-existing societies it annexed.

Most of the seals from Sardis are pyramidal stamp seals and rings; most are of such high-prestige materials as gold and chalcedony. The great majority reflect imperial Achaemenid iconography and were produced in 'Graeco-Persian' style. They were excavated from tombs of elite Sardians. The seals from Gordion, by contrast, come in a wide variety of shapes and materials, including low-cost glass. A significant number were imported from places far to the east, west, and south. They exhibit tremendous variety in artistic style and imagery. Most of them were found (reused?) in post-Achaemenid domestic and work contexts.

The seals from Sardis demonstrate the cohesion of the Achaemenid elite and the overwhelming adoption of Achaemenid ideology at this satrapal capital. The lack of pre-Achaemenid seals from Sardis and the preponderance of high-status ones in the Achaemenid period demonstrate the importance of the Achaemenid administration. The seals from the once-important city of Gordion depart radically from the pre-Achaemenid Phrygian corpus of seals and suggest an overwhelming change in administrative practice during the Achaemenid period. They demonstrate that Achaemenid ideology and practices penetrated even to now-insignificant sites in the Empire.


Susanne Ebbinghaus, Harvard University

Monumental sculpture and architecture are the main visual expressions of Achaemenid Persian royal and imperial ideology. Portable objects, such as seals, coins, and metalwork may illustrate how imperial concepts spread throughout the Empire, and how they were received and modified on a local level. This paper takes a closer look at the evolution of a characteristically Achaemenid vessel type, the rhyton with animal foreparts, and follows its distribution within and beyond the borders of the Persian Empire.

It will be argued that the origin of the rhyton with animal foreparts, whose shape combines elements of the animal-headed cup, the zoomorphic vessel and the drinking horn, has to be sought in sumptuous plate created for the Achaemenid court in the later 6th century BC. A comparison with earlier forms of animal-headed vessels, notably the Neo-Assyrian examples, will serve to better understand the function and peculiar iconography of the Achaemenid rhyta. Through their use as ritually charged drinking vessels and prestigious gifts, the habit of drinking from rhyta spread among the local elites of the Empire, signalling at the same time allegiance to the Great King and the drinker's high status. It seems that the trickle-down effect was slow at first, but where rhyta were embraced by broader sections of the population, modifications of form, iconography and function become more visible and indicate the adaptation of the vessel type to local needs. A brief overview of the occurrence of rhyta in Anatolia, Cyprus, the Levant, Egypt, Scythia, Thrace and Greece will shed some light on the workings of cultural interaction in the period of Achaemenid Persian rule.


Lisbeth S Fried, University of Michigan

According to Ezra 3:3, Jews returning to Jerusalem under Cyrus and Darius 'set up the altar on its foundation, because of the dread of the peoples of the lands upon them'. Commentators assume that the Achaemenid imperial powers prevented brigandage and inter-city warfare. What the Judaeans dreaded, therefore, was not physical assault from their neighbours, but rather intermarriage and assimilation. The present paper investigates whether physical assault via inter-ethnic rivalries, enemy attacks, encroachments by peoples of neighbouring provinces, or robbery was a realistic possibility in the Achaemenid Empire or whether an assured imperial response prevented such occurrences. Greek writers assure us that brigandage was impossible; that all the roads were safe. Inter-city warfare had been curtailed, in one case by the arbitration mechanisms of Streuthes. The Empire was well-managed and orderly; so whence the dread? To measure the actual level of individual security in the outlying satrapies of the Achaemenid Empire, I employ primary sources in two archives from the Egyptian island of Elephantine plus the archive of the Egyptian satrap Arsames. These are augmented by contemporary literary documents such as the memoirs of Nehemiah and the writings of the Greek historians. These texts illustrate that inter-city warfare, inter-ethnic strife, as well as brigandage were common. Their deleterious effects were exacerbated, however, by a judicial system that was neither swift nor sure, but slow, arbitrary, capricious, and easily bent to the highest bidder. In spite of the numerous garrisons scattered throughout the Empire, fears of neighbouring peoples were realistic in the far-flung western satrapies of the Achaemenid Empire.


Richard Nelson Frye, formerly Harvard University

We always have approached the events of the accession of Darius to the Achaemenid throne in assigning identities and actions to individuals. Few however, were satisfied that all the items in sources fitted into a consistent picture. Another approach would consider parties determining events as well as, or instead of, individuals. Although impressionistic and hypothetical, let us consider two parties a pro-Mede and a pro-Persian faction at the court, Cyrus favouring the former and Darius the latter. Cyrus was considered a legitimate successor of the Medes while Darius began a new Persian ruling line, with legitimacy traced back to an ancestor Achaemenes. Instead of joining the descent of Cyrus, Darius made the line of Cyrus a branch of his legitimate Persian Achaemenid descent.


Mark B Garrison, Trinity University - San Antonio

The crowned archer has long been recognized as a central motif in the ideology of kingship of the Achaemenid Persian period. The four types of Achaemenid coinage of imperial issue, both the gold darics and the silver sigloi, all carry on their obverse archer imagery. These archers are generally identified as the Persian king, or some symbolic aspect Achaemenid kingship. This paper will seek to expand the contextual analysis of the archer imagery via the rich storehouse of imagery, for the most part unpublished, at the heart of the Empire: the seal impressions preserved in the Persepolis Fortification archive (509/508-493 BC). Well over one hundred distinct seals from this archive show archer imagery (among the seals preserved as impression in the archive there are impressions of an actual type II archer coin). Many other seals preserved in the Fortification archive reference ideological concerns that are clearly related to the archer coins. An examination of this glyptic evidence from the Fortification archive may allow us not only to identify the iconographic heritage from which the imagery on the archer coins emerged, but also to expand our understanding of the iconological significance of the motif within the rather narrow context of official Achaemenid royal ideology and within the general context of Persian culture in the late 6th century BC in south-western Iran.


Andrew R George, SOAS, University of London

The classical historians Strabo, Arrian, Ctesias and Aelian handed down a tradition that Xerxes of Persia destroyed sacred buildings in Babylon. Specifically mentioned in these accounts is a building identified variously as the 'tomb' or 'temple' of Belos at Babylon, which is certainly to be identified with the ziqqurrat 'temple-tower' of Bel (Marduk), the famous Tower of Babel. On the basis of the classical accounts, F M Th de Liagre Boehl published an influential paper in 1962 in which he declared Xerxes I responsible for the destruction of Babylonian temples in the aftermath of the suppression of the revolts of two Babylonian pretenders. The classical accounts have since been exposed as tendentious and unreliable, informed as they are by a desire to contrast eastern tyranny with Greek civilisation. In the last two decades Xerxes has, as a consequence, been exonerated by ancient historians.

However, evidence relating to the history of the temple-tower of Babylon suggests that this building, at least, did suffer serious deliberate damage during the Persian period. This paper draws attention to this evidence, which is provided by the physical remains of the tower, as excavated by Hansjörg Schmid in 1962 (published 1995), and by the provenance of its foundation cylinders, one of which was excavated on the acropolis at Susa.

In addition, the paper examines Ctesias and Aelian's account of Xerxes finding within the 'tomb' a corpse in a sarcophagus filled with oil. Instead of dismissing the episode as fantasy, this paper reads it in the light of the Babylonian practice of foundation deposits. The story can be interpreted as based on an historical event, though garbled in the telling and contaminated by a native story about another ruler breaking into a tomb.


Hilary Gopnik, Franklin & Marshall University

Since their construction, the columned halls of the Achaemenid Empire have stood as the icon of Achaemenid Persian artistic accomplishment. The still soaring columns at Persepolis with their elaborate capitals have defined the space that now constitutes the ruins of the site for generations of visitors, just as they must have defined the space of the original monuments. The columned hall apparently so symbolized the Persian imperial presence that when the Athenians wanted to visually demonstrate their own new-found imperial aspirations as victors over the Persians it was to this form that they turned as the most evocative image of Achaemenid power. In spite of the overwhelming impact of this distinctive building type, surprisingly little discussion has centered on the way in which columned halls may have functioned as architectural environments. This paper attempts to place the columned hall within the context of architectural theory by tracing the development of the peculiar articulation of space that is created by multiple rows of columns in a confined area.

With the discovery of the columned buildings at Hasanlu and the subsequent excavation of columned halls at Nush-i Jan and Godin, it was felt that the Achaemenid columned halls had been given a distinctively regional pedigree that fully accounted for the development of the form. The recent discovery of a columned hall at the site of Muweilah in south-east Arabia dating to the 9th to 8th centuries BC, the possible recovery of a columned building from Kerkenes Dag, and the proposed re-dating of the columned hall at Altintepe to the Achaemenid period, however, have complicated the unilinear model of a line of succession from Hasanlu to Persepolis. Instead it would appear that there were several threads of technological, cultural and perhaps sociological innovations leading in different directions through time and space, but ultimately culminating in the Achaemenid Apadana. This paper suggests that one way to disentangle these threads is to examine these architectural developments in terms of the function of columned halls as reception areas and to explore the possible implications of this function in terms of the perception of space that multiple rows of columns in an enclosed room might create.


Thomas Harrison, University of Liverpool

The history of Achaemenid Persian Empire has - as is well known - been revolutionized in the last two decades by the work of the scholars associated with the 'Achaemenid History Workshop'. This has been the result in part of the careful evaluation of new evidence, and of a determination to treat Persian history in its own terms, rather than as an appendage to the history of neighbouring peoples. It has also, however, been driven in large part by a reaction to previous Hellenocentric versions of Persian history, and by a desire to bypass (or somehow launder) the pejorative bias of classical Greek sources. This paper addresses two related aspects of the new consensus in Achaemenid history which are arguably problematic. The first is the use of Greek sources - inevitably the basis of much of modern reconstruction of Achaemenid Persia. Following on from recent work on archaic Greek history and on oral tradition, it will be argued, through a small number of illustrative examples, that the 'bias' of Greek sources is harder to distinguish or extricate than has often been imagined. Secondly, the paper will look at the genealogy of previous scholars, that has been constructed by the 'Achaemenid History Workshop', and suggest that the history of scholarship reveals a more complex and (in many instances) a more positive approach to the Achaemenid past.


Shalom E Holtz, University of Pennsylvania

Students of Mesopotamian culture in the 1st millennium BC, in general, and of law, in particular, have noted that the transition between native Babylonian rule and Persian hegemony did not affect the legal culture. The proposed paper will illustrate this continuity by examining the administration of justice, particularly through the office of royal judge.

From its very beginnings, the ideology of Mesopotamian kingship has placed great emphasis on the role of the monarch as 'king of justice'. In the Neo-Babylonian period, the office of 'judges of the king' (dayyanu sa sarri) concretizes this ideological association between the king and the courts of law. In her study Die Richter des Nabonid (AOAT 252, pp. 557-595), Cornelia Wunsch collects the names of the different men who served in judicial councils (Richterkollegien) as 'judges of Nabonidus' and describes their office. Wunsch herself notes that some of the judges of Nabonidus continue their service as judges of Cyrus.

The proposed study will build on Wunsch's observations by examining the office of royal judge during the reigns of Cyrus, Cambyses and Darius I. It will present the evidence available from the cuneiform archives of both private families and temples in Achaemenid Babylon, Sippar and Uruk. In doing so, it hopes to shed descriptive light on the judiciary in Mesopotamia during the period of Persian domination.


Despina Ignatiadou, Archaeological Museum - Thessaloniki, Greece

Six decades ago, the glass bowl found in the foundations of the Hellenistic Artemision at Ephesus was the first colourless glass vessel to be called Achaemenid. In the absence of glass parallels it was compared to similar metal bowls. A few years later, colourless glass fragments were found in the ruins of the treasury of Persepolis. Although they were not attributed to Persian workshops, their existence contributed to the creation of the myth of Persian colourless glass.

In the last decades, many colourless glass vessels appeared on the art market and, luckily, even more have been unearthed in contolled excavations. The majority come from closed burial contexts in Asia Minor, Macedonia, Rhodes, and the Black Sea area. Most were deposited in burials that took place in the second half, and mostly during the last quarter, of the 4th century BC. The finds reveal the existence of more than one production centre, either within or outside the Achaemenid Empire.

Although it is difficult to say when and where each glass vessel was made, it is now perhaps possible to outline the sphere of influence for some of the workshops operating in the 4th century BC.

Additionally, it is now perhaps possible to suggest that the colourless glass production appeared in the 4th century BC as an intentional revival of the earlier Assyrian production of the 8th-7th century BC.


Bruno Jacobs, Seminar fuer Klassische Archaeologie, Universitaet Basel

The Gabr-i Madar-i Sulaiman in Pasargadae is supposed to be the tomb of Cyrus the Great. This is not completely certain, yet written sources attest that the tomb of Cyrus did resemble the gable-roofed hut. Darius I, however, was certainly buried in a rock-cut tomb at Naqsh-i Rustam.

This seems to signal a change of burial customs that matches other developments that took place at this time. Not only was the old capital of Pasargadae abandoned, but also widely different themes of relief decoration emerging on the palaces at Susa and Persepolis indicate a break in tradition from that found on the older buildings at Pasargadae.

In recent years there is a growing conviction that Darius was a usurper and unrelated to Cyrus. The previous observations support this by suggesting that the cultural background and religious persuasion of Cyrus and Darius were sufficiently different to exclude that they were descendants of the same family.

However, considerations about ancient burial practices in Persia, so far as they can be understood from the defective written sources, and observations at the royal burial places themselves show that this break may not have been as great as is assumed, and the different appearance of the tombs does not seem to implicitly indicate fundamentally different religious convictions of the two kings.


Anke Joisten-Prushke, Georg-August Universitaet - Goettingen

Aramaic, more precisely the so-called 'Imperial Aramaic', used to be the official language of the administration of the Achaemenid Empire. Few Iranists may realise that Aramaic documents (ostraca, papyri, and inscriptions) found in places as far apart as Elephantine in Egypt and Qandahar and Taxila, bear witness to Achaemenid culture, religious policies, and administration. Moreover, the Imperial Aramaic contains a large number of Persian loanwords, even the grammar of this Semitic language was modified through the influence of the Persian language.

Persian names - appearing quite frequently - permit far-reaching conclusions about word formation, and questions concerning the linguistic and cultural-history of the Achaemenid Empire.

The paper intends to show the importance of the Aramaica for the understanding of history, culture, religion, and language of the Achaemenid Empire by presenting three examples:

1) The historical background of certain key Aramaic documents from Elephantine (Sachau papyri 1-3, Papyrus Euting) is a local uprising of the priests of Chnum in Elephantine, together with a part of the Persian army during the time of Darius I. The Jewish leader of Elephantine asked Darius I to permit the reconstruction of the Jewish temple of Elephantine 'as it was built previously'. The Persian administration allowed the reconstruction under the constraint to donate only smoke and food offerings, but no burnt offerings. These four documents yield profound new insights into Achaemenid political tolerance and its limits.

2) Two inscriptions from Arebsun/Asia Minor are of extreme interest for Zoroastrian religious history. Probably written in Achaemenid times, their contents represent a call for prayer to Ahura Mazda.

3) The Aramaic Ritual texts from Persepolis will demonstrate the importance of the Haoma ceremony for the Achaemenid times, and its place in the religious life of the soldiers.

All of these show that future scientific work on the history, culture and religion of the Achaemenids is impossible without knowledge of the Aramaic data.


Albert De Jong, University of Leiden

A considerable number of Old Persian royal inscriptions have an interesting theological introduction, in which Ahura Mazda is acclaimed as the creator. Unlike several other aspects of these inscriptions, this particular feature does not really have close counterparts in the other royal inscriptions of the Ancient Near East. It is, therefore, in need of an explanation. Explanations offered so far either evade the question (moving safely into the context of 'royal ideology'), deny that there is a problem at all, or quickly jump to conclusions about the intensity of royal devotion for Zoroastrian theology. Alongside these attempts, there is the frivolous suggestion, presented a number of years ago by Jean Kellens, that Ahura Mazda in the (Old) Avesta is not a creator god at all, that has perhaps unduly influenced the discussion. These issues will be discussed in the light of recent insights in the history of Zoroastrianism.


Deniz Kaptan, University of Nevada - Reno

This paper addresses a small group of clay tags with seal impressions from the heartland of Phrygia in western Anatolia. In the 1990s the staff members of the Kutahya and Afyon museums excavated a multi-period mound near Seyitömer in the upper Tembris valley to the northeast of Aizanoi. Their report included a reference to a small group of tags with Achaemenid seal impressions. So far not many sites in Anatolia are known to have yielded this kind of material from the Achaemenid period. The only other provenience in western Anatolia is Ergili, identified as Daskyleion, the satrapal capital in Hellespontine Phrygia. Unlike Daskyleion, however, the site at Seyitömer is not so well known among the Achaemenid centres of Anatolia.

The Seyitomer tags are flat, round lumps of clay, approximately 2-4 cm. in size. Seal impressions appear on both sides. This is a different feature compared to the Daskyleion bullae, most of which bear papyrus fiber markings at the back. Two types of seal images will be addressed. One stamp seal image shows a winged Gorgon-like figure with serpents emerging from the head. The second, a cylinder seal image, represents a spearman clad in Persian court robe and an archer as victorious warriors; a defeated warrior wearing a Greek helmet is shown between them.

The seal images on the Seyitömer tags provide fresh data for studies dealing with 'Graeco-Persian' issues and contribute significantly to the sphragistic record of the region and the Achaemenid Empire. Detailed study of the material in the Kutahya Museum planned for the summers of 2005 and 2006 will hopefully reveal further aspects and the nature of the settlement during the Achaemenid Empire period.


Philip G Kreyenbroek, Georg-August Universitaet - Goettingen

Given the dearth of solid information concerning the process of Zoroastrianisation of western Iran which is held to have taken place in the Achaemenid period, researchers' presuppositions about processes of conversion and the concept of religion generally inevitably play a key role. It is not so much the answers extracted from the sources that are determined by such assumptions, as the choice of sources and the questions that are asked.

In the past, this process has often inspired accounts of the history of Zoroastrianism under the Achaemenids that were based on the assumption that both the concept of religion and the process of Zoroastrianisation were essentially similar to models familiar from Book Religions such as Christianity and Islam. In other words, a fully developed religious system- including the equivalent of academic theology and absolute norms in most fields of religious observance-is assumed to have taken over the dominant position in the Empire, rejecting some features of earlier religions and assimilating what it could not reject. Since religion under the Achaemenids did not always fulfil these prescriptive requirements, doubts arose from time to time as to whether the Achaemenids were Zoroastrians at all. In due course such doubts tended to be given up again because it is very difficult to imagine what else they could have been, or when western Iran was Zoroastrianised if not under the Achaemenids.

A crucial difference between the Book Religions best known to us and early Zoroastrianism, however, is that the latter was not transmitted by means of writing. Until the invention of the Avestan script in the Sasanian period no writing system existed that was capable of reflecting the elaborate sound system of Avestan. (This is not to say, of course, that writing did not play an important role in Achaemenid culture generally, merely that it does not appear to have been used for religious purposes.) The account of an Achaemenid Avesta written on 12,000 ox-hides is probably an instance of a way of constructing history that is often found in oral cultures, viz. by claiming that an ideal state of affairs existed in the past but was destroyed by one spectacular catastrophe.

Priestly training under the Achaemenids would therefore have consisted in memorising a number of texts in a cognate but foreign language, and in oral transmission of religious teaching from teacher to student. Priests were not able to refer back to a written canon, and must have relied on their understanding of the Avestan texts and on their training generally; the laity could not consult written works on religion nor would they have known many Avestan texts.

In oral traditions it is generally assumed, moreover, that it is impossible to know the entire tradition as it once was. Since it is clear that religious instruction of the laity took place largely by means of a process of questioning and answering, questions from the laity prompted by new insights or conditions would have forced the priesthood to formulate new answers, either on the basis of their traditional knowledge or, if this did not help, by following their own informed judgement.

Another characteristic of oral transmission of religious tradition is that they seldom claim to be the only true faith. Juxtaposition, rather than subordination, is a typical feature of 'oral' knowledge. Just as different priestly lineages tend to represent a variety of views, so it is often assumed that different religions are simply different traditions, and no less 'true' than one's own.

Moreover, given that Zoroastrianism metamorphosed from a cult mostly practised on the family or village level to the dominant faith of an Empire, we do not know to what extent it can be assumed that the earlier traditions would have been regarded as prescriptive norms for religious observance. We know that Avestan was accepted as a the language of religion, which undoubtedly implies a degree of veneration for the past, but does this imply that new elements were regarded with as much disapproval as bid'at in Islam?

Questions arising from these considerations include: - How did they the Achaemenids understand the concept of 'religion'. - What were the scope and impact of religious teaching? - What implications did the above have for the Achaemenids' dealings with other religions? - How prescriptive were pre-Achaemenid Zoroastrian customs. - How absolute were traditional prohibitions. - What was the function of ritual? - How did the culture/religion deal with new elements?

The paper intends to examine the value of some of the sources in the light of these questions.


Amelie Kuhrt, University College London

It was demonstrated nearly 20 years ago that the basis on which the widespread view of Xerxes as a destroyer of Babylonian temples lacked any evidence. It was a view created to fit preconceptions about the character of the king and sources that had been cited in support had been manipulated to bring them into accord with the prevailing view. Analysis of new archival material (primarily from Borsippa) now shows that a significant shift took place in Babylonian society following two short-lived rebellions in 484 BC. Does this mean that the old idea of Xerxes was, therefore, correct? This paper demonstrates that Xerxes' action needs to be set into the continuum of Achaemenid imperial administration, and in no way undermines the arguments used to demonstrate that the conventional view was wrong. Rather, the new evidence helps us to grasp evolutions in Persian policies within their territories.


Judith Lerner, New York

It has often been observed that, compared to those from other periods of Iranian art, representations of women in Achaemenid art are rare. None is found in official and monumental art, and those that are known come mainly from the western part of the Empire. Most of these depictions portray royal or high-born women, rather than goddesses, to judge by their garments and headdresses.

To this corpus of Achaemenid female images can be added a hitherto unpublished rock crystal cylinder seal that has been in a US collection since the 1930s. Its carving shows a figure dressed in the long full-sleeved Achaemenid robe, seated on a chair, behind which a servant, also in the Achaemenid robe, stands with a fly whisk and a towel; in front of the seated figure is an incense burner. This combination of elements echoes that of the enthronement scenes at Persepolis but with a major difference: the enthroned personage clearly has breasts and is spinning, a distaff and spindle held in her raised hands; the attendant behind her is also female. Both women have their hair in the characteristic Achaemenid bouffant style of the men and women of the period. Their headgear, however, is unusual: the seated woman wears what appears to be a turban and the servant what might be a tight-fitting cap with a long 'pig-tail'.

This feminization of the visual topos of enthroned ruler, attendant and incense burner has implications for our understanding of the diffusion of imperial imagery within the Empire and the artistic relation of the peripheral areas of the Empire to its centre. By citing analogies and comparisons of the different elements on the seal-dress, headgear, posture and activities, incense-burner and throne-with other known works of Achaemenid art (the prime examples being the de Clercq cylinder seal, a seal impression from the Persepolis Fortification texts, and the saddlecloth from Kurgan 5 at Pazyryk) I shall suggest a provenance for the seal and a reason for its manufacture.


Yannick Lintz, Musée du Louvre

The purpose of this paper is to discuss the production and sources of images in the regal coinage created by Darius the Great. Root, Stronach, and recently Garrison and Root (2001) have discussed in detail the symbolic meanings of the imperial ideology developed in the archer as 'hunter' or the archer as 'protector', in the direct continuity of Oriental tradition (especially Neo-Assyrian).

My point of view here is to think about the construction of those images by the craftsmen in the coinage workshop in Sardis or elsewhere in Asia Minor. As we know for all small-scale production (terracottas, jewellery, etc.), the model could come from different sources, present in the context.

This analysis will be based on a corpus of Persian sigloi from different hoards and collections (with recent published coins) including the four types of Archer coins synthesised by Carradice. This corpus will identify different artistic properties of representation for each type in the regional context of Lydia. Two main sources of composition may be distinguished: one is seen preferentially in types I and II, where the formal model of the kneeling or running human figure is similar to Greek archaic images seen in black-figure vases from the tradition of the Gorgon Painter and the followers. This type of vases, as well as Corinthian or Rhodian wares was well-represented in the market during Lydia and Greece.

On the contrary, the model of the running Archer of type III and type IV could be seen, not only as an evolution of style from type II, but also as a different source of influence more in relation with the official art of Persepolis seals.


Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, University of Edinburgh

This paper explores the representation of Persian women in a series of seal-stones and gems created in the Achaemenid satrapies of Anatolia in the mid-5th and early-4th centuries BC. Their source of origin had been suggested partly by their distribution, mainly within Anatolia itself (though they also travelled far west - to Italy - north to the Black Sea and east into Central Asia and India). We cannot say whether any of the Greco-Persian seals were cut by Greek artists, but the style and choice of subject matter were unthinkable without the example of both Greek craftsmen and of Greek subjects. It is easy to believe that they were made for the Persian and Persianising courts, and dignitaries of the semi-independent kingdoms of Anatolia, and perhaps on the Syro-Phoenician coast.

The scenes of Persian women with their menfolk, their children and their dogs, or of Persians relaxing, even dancing, are very much in the spirit of Classical Greek art and not at all of Eastern art where such low-key personal subjects are quite exceptional. The images reflect on the pleasures of life in the satrapal Anatolian cities and, as John Boardman neatly suggests, they have a certain hint of the Raj about them, showing Persians somewhat corrupted by the hellanised natives. This in itself makes the cultural interplay of the iconographic schema on the seals unique and exciting. This paper looks at the seals as evidence for upper-class female life and the gendered ideology of this culturally diverse area.

But it is he physical representation of the women which is most remarkable, for dressed in, ostensibly, Persian court dress, the women are given a distinct physicality: these women are buxom, with full breasts and, most noticeably, large buttocks, suggestive of steatopygia. This extraordinary physical manifestation is simply not a feature of representations of women in Greek art nor, for that matter, of the scarce iconography of Persian women from other parts of the Empire. Women with large buttocks are a feature of Greco-Persian gems alone. The question is: why?

Xenophon, as he plunged deeper into the Persian Empire during his mercenary career, was famously concerned that 'if we once learn to live in idleness and luxury, and to consort with the big and beautiful women of these Medes and Persians, we may, like the lotus-eaters, forget our way home'. So were the women of Persian Anatolia really steatopygic or did the engraved images of large-buttocked women play upon a local fetish? Scenes of male-female coupling certainly emphasize the eroticism of the female backside in which fatness equals fertility. The paper explores the meaning of the eroticization of the female body in the gemstones and attempts to decode their (multiple) meanings.


Parvin Loloi, Swansea

In the early modern period several English plays were written on the Achaemenid kings, namely Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes and Cambyses. Most of these plays are based on the Greek writers such as Herodotus and Plutarch, and reflect directly their views.

A number of the plays such as The Tragedy of Darius (1603), and The Alexandrian Tragedy (1607) both by William Alexander, Earl of Stirling, concentrate on the Greco-Persian wars, and particularly on Alexander's conquest of the Persian Empire; in most the authors praise the great Macedonian warrior at the expense of the Persian Kings. The conquest of Cambyses II of Egypt and 'his tyrannical outrage' are depicted in Cambyses, King of Persia (1561). This play is based on two anecdotes from Herodotus, and show the hostility the Greek writer felt towards the Persians.

Among the Greek writers Xenophon was an exception. The anonymous play The Wars of Cyrus (1594) is based on Xenophon's Cyropaedia (translated 1567) and portrays Cyrus as a wise and just king who defeats the treacherous Assryrian king. Xenophon was an admirer of Cyrus and fought as a mercenary in Cyrus the Younger's army.

In contrast to the hostile Greek - derived plays are those inspired by Biblical stories about Cyrus, who is celebrated for his magnanimity and justice, and honoured for freeing the Jews from Babylon. Darius was likewise celebrated in Biblical sources for justice to the Jews and thus portrayed in several morality plays such as The Story of King Darius (1565) in which the anonymous author advises Elizabeth I to put her house in order in the way that Darius did.

This paper proposes to discuss and compare some of the above views presented in English drama on the Achaemenid kings. The early Greek - based plays do not have a strong sense of historical perspective or accuracy. They merely transmit the hostile Greek texts. On the contrary the Biblical based plays are full of praise and admiration for the Persian kings.


John MacGinnis, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research - Cambridge

Babylonia was at the centre of the Achaemenid Empire, and was a major contributor to the Empire in terms of both manpower and commodity flow. Much of the country was divided into urban polities with major temple complexes at their heart. As a consequence these temples had a significant part to play in the furnishing of forces for the use of the state - whether for civil or military purposes - not disregarding the fact that the temple also had need for a maintained militia to deal with day to day problems in its own locality. This paper reviews information available from the cuneiform administrative archives of the early Achaemenid Empire pertaining to the temples' provision of such manpower. Primarily it will deal with data from the archives of the Ebabbara, the temple of the sun god Shamash in Sippar. It will review the evidence for the manufacture of weapons on the part of the temple, for the sources of manpower involved, the system for equipping these men, the areas where they were deployed and the years in which campaigns may have taken place. Evidence will be given for the type of soldiers which the temple fielded and the numbers which it could support, and a scheme will be suggested with regard to the chain of command by which these troops were controlled. Finally, comments will be made on some of the tasks for which these forces could be used both in the immediate environs of Sippar and areas further afield.


Peter Magee, Bryn Mawr College

For nearly a century our understanding of Achaemenid policy and the impact of imperial actions in the far eastern areas of the Empire have been based on imperial records and classical sources. Excavations at Akra in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan between 1996 and 2001 have provided evidence for the economic and political context over which Darius claimed hegemony in the late 6th century BC. In contrast to earlier interpretations which credited the Achaemenid annexation with the advent of urbanism and economic growth, the archaeological evidence suggests that complex polities had already come into existence in the first centuries of the 1st millennium BC. The extent to which the creation of satrapies by Darius is an acknowledgment on these pre-existing structures rather than an attempt to bring order to chaos is explored through analysis of the Akra excavations and a re-analysis of unpublished ceramics from Mortimer Wheeler's excavations at Charsadda.


Sabrina Maras, University of California - Berkeley

Among the Achaemenid bricks excavated at Susa and subsequently transported to the Musée du Louvre at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries were a number of painted glazed bricks, moulded and painted glazed bricks, and unpainted/unglazed moulded baked bricks. Within this corpus, decorative motifs and friezes (including representations of Persian archers), several types of fantastic animals, and somewhat ambiguous fragments depicting possible scenes of ritual, tribute or procession, were subsequently reconstructed from hundreds of bricks and brick fragments studied at the Louvre shortly after their date of acquisition. However, a significant quantity of brick fragments from the collection remained unstudied until recently, when I was given the privilege of re-examining part of the corpus in 2001-2002.

The iconographic variations discovered in the Susian brick corpus include: a lion's paw in what may be an attack position which could stem from a scene depicting a 'heroic encounter'; a lion's ear in a downward position which may have belonged to a lion depicted in an attack mode; a lion's rear leg in a possibly upright or 'standing' position, which may also correspond to a 'heroic encounter'; and a small number of bricks which, when reconstructed, form parts of an unidentified winged creature. Reconstructions based on these new brick fragments will be proposed, and several other already published fragments will be re-assessed. Last but not least, I will consider the nature of a number of unusual artisan's marks that occur on the bricks, and will attempt to show how they relate to the way the brick friezes were constructed.


Ali Mousavi, University of California - Berkeley


Cindy Nimchuk, University of Illinois - Springfield

During the excavations of Persepolis, two foundation deposits were uncovered in the Apadana, in the northeast and southeast corners of the building. Inside a stone box in each deposit were found a silver tablet and a gold tablet, inscribed with the DPh text of Darius I (521-486 BC); beneath each box were found four gold Croeseid coins and two silver coins of the Greek world (possibly three in the south-east deposit).

Scholarship has focused primarily on the issue of dating the Apadana deposits: the coins and the tablets have been studied in attempts to ascertain the dating of archaic Greek silver coinages, the Croeseid and Archer coinages, Darius' Thracian expedition, possible political claims to Aegean areas, and the building of the Apadana itself. Rarely has attention been given to the broader symbolic meaning of the deposits (Margaret Root 1988, 1989).

I understand the Apadana deposits to be more than a means to date coins or events. Darius expressed his world-view in carefully constructed messages to specific audiences, and clearly took great care with the materials and objects chosen for inclusion and the messages conveyed through the inscriptions and media. Conceptually, the DPh text, the use of only gold and silver materials, and the choice of four gold coins resonate symbolically through spatial, technological, economic, political, and religious levels. Darius associated the Apadana with both the expanse of the Empire itself and his own person; the building was spatially the embodiment of the Empire, just as Darius was ultimately its core.


Cameron Petrie, Sommerville College, University of Oxford; Alireza Asgari-Chaverdi, ICHTO - Shiraz; Bernadette McCall, University of Sydney & Mojgan Seyedin, Iranian Centre for Archaeological Research

The archaeology of Achaemenid Persia is best known from the monumental sites of Takht-i Jamshid (Persepolis) and Pasargadae, with a particular focus on their elaborate and highly skilled architecture and art. Less is known about domestic architecture and the materials associated with daily life. This makes the study of settlements difficult during this period, particularly the archaeology of smaller sites, even from within the 'homeland' area of Fars itself. This problem is exacerbated when studying Achaemenid period settlement patterns from survey data as often the ceramics are poorly preserved, and regional typologies can easily remain unidentified. A recent collaborative project, by a team from the Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organisation, Tehran, and the University of Sydney, Australia has focused on investigating the archaeology of the Mamasani region of western Fars, Iran. Documentary sources state that a staging post for the seasonal migration route between Persepolis and Susa was located in one of the valleys of this area. Displaying surface remains indicative of Achaemenid buildings, the site of Tepe Suruvan (or Jin Jun) was partially excavated in the 1950s, but the wider area remained largely unexplored (Atarashi and Horiuchi 1963). As part of the current project a survey of the valleys around this site was undertaken, identifying evidence for further Achaemenid occupation located away from the 'road' site. Building on the limited textual information, and the available archaeological evidence, this paper will present current evidence for settlement patterns in the Mamasani valleys during this period as a means of understanding how, if at all, Achaemenid control affected settled life in this area.

During his march into the highlands of southwest Iran in 330 BC, the Macedonian king Alexander captured the so-called 'Persian Gates' before proceeding into the Marv Dasht and seizing the Achaemenid Royal capital at Persepolis. Although it has not been possible to unequivocally identify the location of the 'Persian Gates', the region of Mamasani in Fars has been put forward as a possible candidate.

The Mamasani region is comprised of a series of long, fertile valleys that lie on the main southeast to northwest route through the Zagros Mountains. The largest of these is the plain of Fahliyan, and the most promising site on that plain is Tol-e Spid - the white mound. A number of major Achaemenid or Post-Achaemenid monuments are also extant in the Mamasani region, emphasising its importance in the late 1st millennium BC. These include the Achaemenid royal pavilion known as Jin-Jun, which lies within sight of Tol-e Spid, and the rock cut tomb of Da-u Dukhtar, situated at the western edge of the Mamasani region and dated to somewhere between the late 5th and late 3rd centuries BC.

A preliminary stratigraphic sounding at Tol-e Spid has provided insight into the sequence of occupation at the site, revealing that there were at least 24 separate phases of occupation, dating between 5000 and 50 BC. The uppermost 5 m of deposit date from c. 550 to 50 BC and attest to continuous occupation during the Achaemenid and Post-Achaemenid periods. This is the first sequence of occupation for this period to be excavated at a village site in the heartland of the Achaemenid Empire, and it provides a unique perspective on the nature of regional life in Fars under Achaemenid and Post-Achaemenid rule.


Daniel Thomas Potts, University of Sydney

The extent of Achaemenid control over portions of the Persian Gulf has been discussed by numerous scholars. Most attention has been devoted to Maka, but less has been paid to the unnamed islands in the Erythraean Sea which constituted part of the XIVth satrapy. These islands and their inhabitants appear several times in Herodotus (Hist. 3.89, 93; 4.37; 7.80) and Arrian (Anab. 3.8.5), while in the Indika (26.7ff) the islands along the coasts of Gedrosia, Karmania, Persis and Susiana are described, in varying degrees detail. In spite of the general paucity of archaeological evidence from the Iranian islands of the Persian Gulf (with the obvious exception of Kharg), the ancient sources do tell us some interesting things about Achaemenid activities in the Persian Gulf, and these will be explored here. Finally, archaeological evidence from Failaka and Bahrain will be discussed in light of its implications for an assessment of whether these important islands formed part of the XIVth satrapy.


Shahrokh Razmjou, National Museum of Iran

Since the beginning of scientific excavations in Persepolis, archaeologists assigned names and functions to its different buildings. Some later finds have changed the earliest ideas given for the buildings and spaces. Yet despite many years of excavation, the function of many parts of the Persepolis complex is still unknown. Some years ago, remnants of an unknown architectural building was found by the author that can be identified as a place for sacrifice. This allows some new suggestions about the function of buildings at Persepolis. In this respect, the characteristics of the buildings and their iconographic elements such as reliefs could be interpreted in a different way. If additional supplementary sources such as inscriptions and iconographic sources may be taken into consideration, the places can find a different function. One of these is the hitherto elusive religious and ritual aspects of the buildings. The finds from other parts of the site would also offer a different function to those previously suggested. The Treasury Hall is an example of this category which may instead be identified as a royal archive or a museum. Changing such perspectives offer the opportunity of interpreting the site in a more correct way and should help increase our understanding of the Persian Empire.


Michael Roaf, Institut fuer Vorderasiatische Archaeologie, Universitaet Muenchen

It has long been accepted that some fundamental aspects of the architecture of Achaemenid Persia were borrowed from the Medes. In recent years, however, the evidence for the history of the Medes has been subjected to detailed re-examination and this has led some scholars to a radical reassessment of the nature of the Median state and its role in the formation of the Achaemenid Empire. It is, therefore, timely to reconsider whether the easy assumption that Achaemenid architecture owed much to the Medes can still be upheld. In my paper I will review the similarities (as well as noting some of the differences) between the surviving remains of Median architecture at Tepe Nush-i Jan and at Godin Tepe and those of Achaemenid architecture at Pasargadae, Susa and Persepolis and discuss to what extent these parallels should be interpreted as the result of Median influence on the Persians.


Nicolas Sekunda, Nicolaus Copernicus University - Torun

Our literary references to Achaemenid royal dress all come directly or indirectly from Greek sources of the late 5th or 4th centuries BC. They refer to the King wearing a sarapis mesoleukon, that is a long-sleeved purple tunic with a central white stripe, reaching to the knee and worn with trousers, and a kidaris worn upright on the head. These can be compared to Greek representational sources from the mid-5th century BC onwards showing these same items being worn. The two sources confirm one another, and there can be little doubt that they reflect reality.

Nothing of this type is shown in the Persepolis reliefs, which date from the turn of the 6th and 5th centuries. Here the King wears a long red and blue tunic reaching down to the ankle. The most logical way to explain this discrepancy is to postulate that Achaemenid royal dress changed during the first half of the 5th century BC. This change can be associated with Greek texts preserving the tradition that Persian dress had originally been Median. In a famous passage Herodotus states that the Persians had adopted Median dress. In a less well known passage (Cyr.8.3.1) Xenophon states that Cyrus the Great distributed Median cloaks to those Persians and allies who held rank, and this was the first time the Persians had worn the Median cloak. I propose that this statement should not be taken literally, that it was Cyrus who first started to wear the Median cloak, but rather in a general sense, that Xenophon was aware that Median dress was not worn by the early Persians.

Cyrus the Great may have worn an altogether different type of royal dress. The winged figure carved on Gate R at Persepolis wears a crown and what has been identified for a long time as the Elamite Royal Robe. This was first noted by Dieulafoy who identified the figure as representing Cyrus himself. I suggest that the figure does not represent Cyrus, but rather his khvarnah, as suggested by its wings. It is nevertheless dressed in the royal regalia of the period. This is seemingly confirmed by lines 24 ff. of the third column of the Nabonidus Chronicle, which records the visit of Cambyses to the Temple of Nabu in Babylon in 538 BC, the year after the capture of the city by Cyrus. Cambyses was wearing Elamite dress, and it seems that the chief priest refused to hand him the sceptre on account of this fact.


St John Simpson & Michael R Cowell, British Museum

A large decorated but un-inscribed Achaemenid silver bowl was acquired by the British Museum in 1998 with the generous assistance of the National Art Collections Fund, the British Museum Friends and the Friends of the Ancient Near East. Although displayed soon afterwards, the bowl has not previously been published in detail (ANE 1998-1-17,1). It is said to have been found in Mazanderan province in northern Iran, and was first publicly exhibited during the Third Exhibition of Persian Art held at the Hermitage in St Petersburg in 1935. During this time it was part of an important, but since dispersed, private collection of Iranian antiquities belonging to T L Jacks (1884-1966), the first Resident Director in Tehran of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company and which later became BP. This paper presents the results of scientific analysis of the bowl which was undertaken in the Department of Scientific Research (now Conservation, Documentation & Science) in the British Museum, discusses the known history of the object and concludes with a critical examination of the alleged provenance of this and other Achaemenid silver objects reportedly found in Mazanderan.


Abolala Soudavar, Houston

Achaemenid religion and ideology has been the subject of many controversies, especially in respect to its relationship with Zoroastrianism. The aim of this paper is to show through an analysis of text and iconography that the new imperial ideology promoted by Darius was inventive but tentative, and had to be constantly rectified and redefined through compromises that necessitated its harmonisation with existing beliefs. Most likely, Darius did not formulate his new ideology alone but had the support of some of the 'seven conspirators'. A document pertaining to one of these conspirators may shed new light on the amount of their involvement in this task. More importantly, Darius' imperial ideology left a lasting impression on Zoroastrianism. It can be detected in the Avesta, through additions and modifications that reflect the development of imperial texts and iconography, and which hint at a post-Darius reformulation of religious texts.


Mohammad Hassan Talebian, Choga Zanbil & Persepolis Projects

Some 190 years have passed since the beginning of archaeological activity at Persepolis. An overview of this long period of research on the Achaemenids enable the development of new research techniques in cultural heritage. The first known archaeological research at Persepolis was undertaken by the British explorer James Morier at the beginning of the 19th century (cf. Ali Mousavi, 'Persepolis in retrospect: Histories of discovery and archaeological exploration at the ruins of ancient Parsa' in Ars Orientalis (2002)). Since then, a number of (non-scientific) excavations were led by some local authorities or explorers, among which one can enumerate the case of Farhad Mirza, governor of Fars (1876). He was followed by Herbert Weld [Blundell] (1892), who made casts of the sculptures on behalf of the British Museum and whose report published two years later in London was indeed the first documented report of excavations at Persepolis. Systematic excavations began in 1931 under the supervision of Ernst Herzfeld; these were continued on behalf of the Oriental Institute of Chicago by Erich Schmidt. Later the Ministry of Culture and Archaeological Organisation directly supervised excavations through the 'Persepolis Scientific Institute'. Today the responsible body is the Parsa-Pasargadae Research Foundation (PPRF) which was established in 2002 for better implementation of conservation and researches using all available scientific tools and methods in various fields related to cultural heritage. Restoration periods can therefore be divided between those of Herzfeld, Schmidt, Sami, ISMEO, the conservation projects and Fars cultural heritage periods, and finally the PPRF period. The general region of Parsa-Pasargadae is therefore of great importance due to its long period of archaeological and conservation activities. However, a short glance of the research programmes up to the present time reveals that most of these projects were principally focused on well-known archaeological monuments and sites (Persepolis in particular) or on some cultural-historical issues which are ultimately related from structural, visual and functional perspectives. It means that no research has yet been done which takes into account the region's cultural landscape or its integral identity. As a result, most of the authority's attention was mainly concentrated on those same monuments and sites, but ignoring those other seemingly less important ones which in some cases have been destroyed owing to development projects. A coherent strategy for the Parsa-Pasargadae landscape thus seems necessary as an extension of the recent concept of cultural heritage with an emphasis on cultural context. This paper represents a brief history of archaeological research programmes in the region and the restoration projects undertaken at Persepolis. A comparison will also be made between the condition of the reliefs and architectural monuments of the site at different periods. Finally this paper will introduce new government policies about the aggregate of sites and proposals for the perspective of future archaeological activities.


Nigel Tallis, The British Museum

Despite the significance accorded the Greco-Persian wars in Greek sources, and the prominence thus secured in Western history ('capturing forever the collective imagination of the West'), the Achaemenid Persian military has received surprisingly little attention. This is certainly true in comparison to studies of Graeco-Roman military history. This paper will look at the evidence for locating the ancient Persian army within the wider framework of Near Eastern military practice and tradition. It will also examine how far claims that the 'Western way of war' derives from the military systems of ancient Greece can be justified.


Christopher Tuplin, University of Liverpool

The aim of this paper is to review the various representations in Greco-Roman and eastern sources of the relationships (a) between the King and his high-status subordinates and (b) between members of the Persian elite. This review is prompted by the claim of T Petit, 'Xenophon et la Vassalite Achemenide', in C J Tuplin (ed.), Xenophon and his World (2004), that there is a significant structural similarity between at least some Achaemenid personal relations and the system of vassalage visible in mediaeval Western Europe. Petit's principal aim was to argue that the sort of ritualisation of personal bonds found in mediaeval contexts could be detected in Achaemenid period sources - in particular in the account of Cyrus and Orontas in Xenophon's Anabasis. The task now is to evaluate the cogency of that proposition and determine what, if any, contribution it can (if true) make to our understanding of Persian behaviour in the 6h to 4th centuries BC.


Melanie Wasmuth, Institut fuer Vorderasiatische Archaeologie, Universitaet Muenchen

The stela found by the National Museums of Scotland expedition in Saqqara in late autumn 1994 is a rare example of a monument for a person of mixed parentage - a Persian father and an Egyptian mother - in Egypt. While most of the artworks of known provenance with an undoubtable combination of Egyptian and Persian elements are royal monuments, the stela offers the opportunity for information about the intercultural mixture of concepts of the social stratum below the monarch and the royal household, at least for the outlying parts of the Empire.

A detailed analysis of the different iconologic, iconographic, and stylistic devices reveals a very differentiated combination of elements from various cultures, not only Persian and Egyptian. As in the royal art of Persia the stela shows in several respects not only a combination of elements but an innovative creation of new forms of depiction. For example, the middle register shows one of the most common Egyptian funerary scenes from the Book of the Dead - but it does not belong to the topics presented on a stela. On the other hand the lower register depicts a Persian on a throne before an offering table, but the banquet as part of the funerary rites carved on a funerary monument has no parallels in Persia though it is a common concept for the northern Aramean funerary monuments.

The detailed examination of the stela offers several new insights how far foreigners were integrated into the social system and how far they adapted themselves to the religious beliefs of their new homeland, as it can be assumed that the funerary monument shows the most essential personal needs and beliefs.


Matt Waters, University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire

The circumstances surrounding the rise of the Persian Empire in the 6th century BC remain enigmatic. Cyrus the Great's impetuses and motivations for the conquests of Media, Lydia, and Babylonia still in many ways defy our understanding, despite the varied source material at our disposal for their study. The problems, of course, remain that the sources are just that, varied - colored by propaganda and (or) removed in time and perspective. For example, Assyrian, Elamite, and Babylonian documents, Cyrus' and Darius' royal inscriptions, as well as a multitude of Greek historians and biographers (among them Herodotus, Xenophon, and Ktesias) offer sometimes radically different versions of early Persian history, Cyrus' place within it, and Persia's relationship with the Medes.

Recent developments in our knowledge of the Neo-Elamite, Median, and early Persian periods in Iran offer new opportunities whereby to reassess old constructs. Works such as P Briant's From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire (translated by P Daniels) and Continuity of Empire(?): Assyria, Media, Persia (ed G Lanfranchi et al.), among others, have contributed new perspectives and raised new questions regarding the rise of the Persian Empire and its 6th century BC milieu as well as the historical traditions that describe it. This paper will examine the various traditions (primarily Greek but in conjunction with Near Eastern) concerning Cyrus' rise to power and its historical context. In particular, the sometimes-incredible divergences between the Classical and ancient Near Eastern sources will be addressed, in conjunction with regard to their significance for our understanding of early Persian history especially vis-à-vis the Medes.


Wu Xin, University of Pennsylvania

This paper examines the political relations between the Achaemenid central institution and the peoples living in the north-eastern provinces of the Empire through the study of seals depicting battles against the Central Asians.

Two chalcedony cylinder seals (OT 114 and BM 132505) held in the British Museum bear depictions of Central Asian warriors being defeated by Persian or Elamite warriors. These seals are often cited as illustrations of the relationship between the Persian imperial power and its subjects in the eastern part of the Achaemenid Empire. The paper argues that the battle scenes depicted on these two seals are in fact a visual record of actual military clashes between the Achaemenid ruling group and the Central Asians.

Based on the analysis of these and other similar seals, the paper reconstructs some of the political incidents that have escaped written documentation by both classical authors and by the Persians themselves. The impression of such seals on dated tablets allows us to suggest military conflicts in the 5th century BC and to bring Sogdiana into the arena of political affairs of the early Achaemenid Empire.

This paper also re-evaluates certain issues concerning Achaemenid historiography, including whether the Persians adopted the narrative mode of writing history; how Persian historical consciousness manifested itself; and how history was remembered sociably the Achaemenid social elite.


Sima Yadollahi & Abbas Yalvaee, University of Tehran

In spite of the narratives of Herdotus about the Achaemenids and despite considerable surveys and excavations carried out during the last century, and although the first Achaemenid cuneiform inscriptions were deciphered more than one and a half centuries ago, our understanding of the origins of the Achaemenids still remains problematic. Traditional proposed regions and routes by some archaeologists and scholars are the northeast and northwest of Iran and even the region of Fars. This paper will suggest an alternative interpretation by investigating a variety of new aspects of this issue:

  1. During the second millennium BC some populations with Indo-European elements that began to appear in the southeast of Anatolia and north of Syria were exposed to Aramaic and Assyrian contacts. Some of them had frequent confrontations with the Assyrians during the late second and a considerable part of the first millennia BC. Finally, they were defeated by Sargon II in the late eighth century BC;
  2. The Assyrians, routinely exiled their active enemies in large groups from and to different parts of the Near East, affecting the population composition of the regions. Some Indo-European populations could be among the groups and tribes transferred by the Assyrians;
  3. The Achaemenids were quick in adopting Aramaic writing and language and some other artistic and cultural elements from the Levant and Egypt, which may not be well explained by the traditional hypotheses;
  4. Achaemenid cuneiform has some elements in common with that of the Urartian, however, it is not originated from, nor similar to those of Elamite and Assyrian;
  5. Indo-Iranian and Achaemenid names found in south and southwestern Iran may not be traced in relatively numerous inscriptions (Assyrian, Babylonian and Elamite) of the late eighth and the seventh century BC at least until about 630 BC;
  6. Neither in the northeast and northwest (ancient Parsua) of Iran nor in the province of Fars (southern Iran), have any reliable Achaemenid archaeological remains be discovered that could be associated with the times prior to the establishment of the dynasty;
  7. The word 'Parsua', according to some linguists, has no Indo-European roots but derives from Akkadian;
  8. It is probable that for political and military reasons, the Achaemenids were among those groups exiled by the Assyrians from the north of Syria and the southeast of Anatolia to the neighboring regions of Babylonia and Elam. It is suggested that such an event might have taken place during 740-640 BC.


Ehsan Yaghmaee, Tehran

This paper reports on recent important excavations near Borazjan in the Dashtestan region in the province of Bushehr in south-west Iran. In 1978 the author surveyed the Dashtestan area and discovered the remains of 21 palaces. Excavations were conducted at two sites, Sang-e Siah and Bardak-e Siah.

The most recent excavation at Sang-e Siah, located 12km north of Borazjan, was in 2005 and lasted for two months. The Achaemenid palace at this site has a central hall with porticoes on four sides. This main hall measures 24.40m x 20.50m and has 16 column bases. Each column base has black stone at the bottom, and white stone in the middle and at the top. There are 16 column bases in the north, south, and west porticoes respectively (arranged in two rows), and 28 column bases in the east portico, again in two rows. Parts of column capitals such as eagle's eyes, feathers, and lion's teeth, all of limestone, were also found. The walls of the main hall were of mudbrick which had been plastered and painted green.

Bardak-e Siah is northwest of Borazjan and is surrounded by palm groves. Excavations at this site were in 1978 and 2005 and still continue. Here there is another Achaemenid palace. The main hall has doorways in the east, south and west walls. The north side has not yet been excavated. The column bases in the main hall again had black stones at the bottom and white stones in the middle and at the top. The tori were white. The stone doorjambs in the east and west doorways are small but the doorjambs in the south doorway are large and finely constructed. Here were found four large stone fragments on one of which is part of a bas-relief of Darius the Great. Also near the southern doorway we found part of a cuneiform inscription. This may be the Achaemenid city of Tamukan.